It’s time for another Giallo! For some reason, I’ve really been digging on these. A little more subtle than slashers, a little more gory than thrillers. This go-round, I watched Paolo Cavara’s The Black Belly of the Tarantula. Someone somewhere claimed that this is the best giallo ever made, and I had to test this theory. I found that I disagreed, but I did enjoy the movie a whole hell of a lot. Like the Argento gialli I detailed in my last blog entry, this one was also scored by Ennio Morricone. Dude got around.
The “plot” of this movie is basically just connecting tissue to string together the murder and nudity set-pieces. A sex-crazy she-dame who frequents a particular salon is murdered thusly: a thick acupuncture needle coated in a paralytic is jammed into her neck, leaving her paralyzed but aware. Then a knife is plunged into her belly, and she’s disemboweled while apparently feeling every excruciating second of it.
It turns out she was being blackmailed for her wacky sex-desires and adultery! Then another woman is murdered in exactly the same way. This one was a drug dealer, and was also being blackmailed. Lo, a pattern emerges! The hunt for the sex-crazed psychopath is afoot! A police inspector with an awesome 1970s moustache is on the case.
The reason for the title– and the supposed corollary to the murderer’s methodology– is the behavior of the tarantula hawk wasp, which is described by Wikipedia thusly:
The female tarantula hawk captures, stings, and paralyzes the spider, then either drags her prey back into her own burrow or transports it to a specially prepared nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s abdomen, and the entrance is covered… When the wasp larva hatches, it creates a small hole in the spider’s abdomen, then enters and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult, and emerges from the spider’s abdomen to continue the life cycle.
Which is really, truly, awful. That’s right up there with the old dream of being not able to move but being totally aware as the coroner starts his autopsy on you. Or being buried alive and awake and unable to tell anyone about it. These are old tropes for a reason– they still scare the unholy crap out of people. Anyway, the movie explains this reasoning in an amazing sequence where it actually shows the tarantula hawk wasp straight-up fighting a tarantula and then beginning the horrifying larva-depositing sequence:
The husband of the first victim, a suspect in both murders, decides that he needs to prove his innocence, and so begins his own hunt for the murderer. He hires a private eye, and tracks down the photographer who was blackmailing both women, and his girlfriend, who is the more vicious (and smart) of the two.
This leads to a straight-up incredible rooftop struggle scene, and the photographer shoves the first victim’s husband, culminating in what can only be described as a truly beautiful and wondrous example of the “camera following a person to their horrible gruesome falling death” shot.
God, I love these.
Anyway, the photographer is found dead. Then his girlfriend, the other half of the blackmailing duo, is also found brutally murdered. Jenny, a masseuse at the spa from the beginning of the film, is also found murdered. The hits just keep on coming! The photography, by the way, is pretty nice. Jenny’s corpse is found dead by the garbage man, who tears open a trash bag and finds her gazing skyward beatifically, like some wayward blackmailing trash-Saint:
The inspector, beginning to believe that there’s something going on with the spa, goes there and discovers yet another dead lady! SO MANY DEAD LADIES, YOU GUYS.
It becomes apparent that the murderer is now targeting the Inspector’s girlfriend. He rushes to his apartment, finds her paralyzed in bed, and confronts the murderer.
He does this by dropping his gun, staring at the murderer for a really long time, and then allowing me to create perhaps the greatest gif so far this year:
The Black Belly of the Tarantula was pretty good. Three and a half stars out of five. It would be rated higher, but there’s no real mystery that the viewer can follow along– there are no clues, as such, meaning that the ultimate reveal of the murderer is basically meaningless. As a string of set-pieces, however, it’s great; and Morricone’s score really enhances the whole thing.